Seth Kaller, Inc.

Inspired by History

Other Revolution and Founding Fathers (1765 - 1784) Offerings


Other Great Gifts Offerings


Other Declaration of Independence Offerings


A Stone/Force Printing of the Declaration of Independence
Click to enlarge:

The Stone/Force printings are the best representation of the Declaration as it was when members of the Continental Congress put their lives on the line to sign it in August of 1776. 

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. Copperplate engraving printed on thin wove paper. Imprint at bottom left, “W. J. STONE SC WASHn” [William J. Stone, Washington, D.C. ca. 1833]. Printed for Peter Force’s American Archives, Series V, Vol I. Approx. 24¾ x 29½ in., framed to 32½ x 37½ in.

Inventory #27694       SOLD — please inquire about other items

Condition: Good. Original folds visible; some areas of moderate foxing and toning; one short mended tear (1¼ in.) in right edge near center.

America emerged from the War of 1812 truly independent. The country had survived its second conflict with Great Britain, and the Louisiana Purchase had doubled the nation’s size. Tested in war and peace, the U.S. was on the verge of enormous physical, political, and economic expansion. This optimistic time was widely known as the “Era of Good Feelings.” As the 50th anniversary of independence approached, a new generation sought connections to our nation’s founding. the Declaration of Independence, with its not-yet-famous signatures, became iconic.

By 1820 the original Declaration of Independence (now at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.) already showed signs of wear from handling. John Quincy Adams, then Secretary of State, received the approval of Congress to commission William J. Stone to engrave a facsimile—an “exact” copy—on a copper plate. Stone finished his copperplate in 1823, and awaited instructions.

In 1824, Congress ordered 200 official copies printed on vellum, which were distributed by John Quincy Adams to our presidents and vice presidents, governors, educational institutions, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the three surviving signers (John Adams, Charles Carrol, and Thomas Jefferson), among others. Just over a quarter of Stone’s vellum first editions are known to survive; most are in or destined for museums and libraries.

In the 20th century, Stone was posthumously accused of having used a “wet” or chemical process to lift and transfer ink from the original parchment to guide the engraving. On the contrary, we believe there is sufficient evidence that he did not. Stone held the original document for more than two years, and expertly engraved it by hand.  

The Peter Force/ William Stone Second Edition
Several years later, archivist Peter Force was planning The Documentary History of the American Revolution, and wanted to include a Declaration facsimile. The State Department agreed to purchase 1,500 sets, and Congress authorized the project on March 2, 1833. Rather than waiting, Force immediately went to Stone to have the Declarations printed. The second edition was printed on thin wove paper, and the legend was shortened and moved from the top to the bottom left. The new imprint read, “W. J. STONE SC WASHN,” with “SC” standing for “sculpsit,” meaning “engraver.” 

Peter Force expanded the scope of his documentary collection, and renamed it American Archives: A Documentary History of the United States, encompassing six series from colonial settlement to the organization of the federal government in 1789. Series V, Volume I, which included the Declaration, was finally published in 1848. Thus, Stone’s second facsimile was originally catalogued as having been printed in 1848. However, in the State Department archives, our researcher discovered an invoice from Stone, dated July 21, 1833, for 4,000 Declaration copies, revealing that Force, likely anticipating delays with the whole project, ordered the facsimiles from Stone immediately upon getting the 1833 Congressional authorization.

Some believe Stone’s original plate was used. Differences include vertical size of the print block, though that could be explained by differences in the vellum (which is very reactive to changes in temperature and humidity) and paper over time. There are also minute engraving differences, which perhaps can be explained by touch-ups to the plate, but this is one of the remaining research questions that hasn’t been tackled yet.

In 1843, after mounting expenses and increasing delays, Force had to apply for Congressional re-authorization. The government’s order was scaled back to 500 copies, which is why we sometimes see descriptions claiming that only 500 of the Force Declarations were printed. But 4,000 Declarations had long been printed and waiting to be inserted into the books. Congress canceled the remainder of the project in 1853. Force sold his enormous collection of original documents to the Library of Congress for $100,000 in 1867.

Back to the Original
Despite John Quincy Adams’ intentions, and the existence of the facsimiles, the engrossed Declaration continued to be mistreated. Display in direct sunlight, disastrously faulty conservation work, cutting off the margins, and other insults have irreparably damaged the original, only about 10 percent of which is still legible.

The very rare Stone first edition, and this Stone/Force second edition, remain the best representations of the Declaration as the engrossed manuscript originally looked when it was signed.

For more background about the July 1776 original Declaration broadsides and newspapers, and the engrossed Declaration that was mostly signed on August 4th after New York changed its vote to make it Unanimous, see

To learn more about the Stone printing, click here for America’s National Treasure: The Declaration of Independence & William J. Stone’s Official Facsimile.

William J. Stone (1798-1865) was born in London and brought to America as a child in 1804. After studying engraving with Peter Maverick in New York, in 1815 he established a business in Washington, D.C. He did much work for the federal government, and in 1820, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissioned Stone to make an exact facsimile of the Declaration of Independence. In July 1823, Stone printed 201 copies on vellum for distribution to political leaders and educational institutions. In 1821, Stone married Elizabeth Jane Lenthall (1804-1892) and she also became an engraver, specializing in maps. They had at least four children. Stone received a patent for a printer’s inking apparatus in 1829. He became one of Washington’s wealthiest citizens, with $157,000 in real property in 1860. He was an officer in the Agricultural Society of the United States, and a founding member (with Peter Force) of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science. During the Civil War, the Army constructed a hospital on his farm.

Peter Force (1790-1868) was born near Passaic Falls, New Jersey, to a Revolutionary War veteran. Force moved to New York City, where he joined the printers’ trade union, serving as president from 1812 to 1815. During the War of 1812, Force rose to the rank of lieutenant in the army. At the war’s end, he moved to Washington, D.C. In 1822, Force received a patent for a method of color printing. He founded and published the National Journal from 1823 to 1830. He supported John Quincy Adams for president in 1824 and was mayor of Washington from 1836 to 1840.  His primary achievements were as a collector and editor of historical documents. From 1837 to 1853, Force published nine volumes of his American Archives: A Documentary History of the United States, under the authority of Congress and the sponsorship of the State Department. Series V, Volume I included a facsimile engraving of the Declaration of Independence by William J. Stone. Though Congress canceled the project before completion in 1853, the many published volumes are an essential source for the history of the United States between 1774 and 1776. In 1867, Congress purchased Force’s collection of original documents for $100,000, and added them to the collections of the Library of Congress.